Kern County supervisors talk charging for river rescues

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. - Our records show eight people have died this year in the Kern River.

County Search and Rescue say they have conducted well over 50 river rescues this year.

Four people remain missing, and are presumed drowned.

The spike in drownings and rescues has Kern County Supervisors exploring new ways to keep people out of the water.

Kern County supervisors are working on an ordinance to charge anyone rescued from the "Killer Kern."

"It's my belief that people need to be responsible for their own actions and right now you've seen a lot of people who have to be rescued from the Kern River and all of us are paying for that," District 4 Supervisor David Couch said.

Couch said the ordinance would say something along the line of anyone rescued from the river would be responsible for covering the cost. 

They would not charge that person more than the cost of the rescue.

Any money collected would go directly to the budget for future search and rescue needs.      

Riverside County resident Richard Carrillo and his family have taken an annual trip to the Kern River for 10 years. They said this year they can feel the difference.

"Come to Kern County with the water a fast as it is, don't get in it. It will be overwhelming. Before you have a chance to react, you'll be going down the river screaming. So is the ordinance good to protect lives? Absolutely," Carrillo said.

As this potential ordinance is in the early stages, Couch said supervisors will discuss things like if the charges will also be applied to recoveries and how it would affect the search and rescue volunteers.

"To say that it doesn't cost us anything to go out and rescue someone, it does," Couch said. "It takes people away from what they would normally be doing, they have to back fill those positions, there maybe over time involved. Those are the details that I think we need to work out in the ordinance that clearly spell out what cost we are recovering and what costs we are burying as part of our general responsibility." 

If an ordinance is adopted, it would take 60 days before it takes effect.

Couch says he doesn't anticipate one before next year.


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